It’s true there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different factors that go into a successful B2B sales conversation. One of the most overlooked of these in terms of preparation is a set of specific vocal habits that cause clients to disengage – and cause sales professionals to lose credibility when overused.
By training yourself to eliminate these treacherous habits, you can place yourself in command of your sales calls and convert your clients more reliably.
Habit #1: Overusing Weak Language and Placeholders
Ever since the explosion of the “Valley Girl” phenomenon in the 1980s the prevalence of using placeholder words has been a hot topic. These are words such as, “ummm,” “uhhh,” “like,” etc., which inexperienced speakers pepper into conversations when they get nervous or thrown off-track. It’s also important to avoid weak modifiers, including “kinda” and “sorta,” because they are vague and noncommittal.
This is a big one to overcome, because it’s such a normal crutch for so many people. Even professionals such as sales reps and television personalities still have to fight the urge to slip in placeholder words when they’re momentarily searching for the right thing to say. In fact, one study found 80 percent of sales calls featured at least one filler or placeholder word from a rep. The problem with both placeholder words and weak language is they have the tendency to erode your credibility – and it can even happen subconsciously.
Habit #2: Frequently Speaking in the Passive Voice
Speaking in the active voice is when you say the subject of the sentence before the verb (example: “We discovered our platform can increase open rates by 75 percent”). Conversely, the passive voice is when the verb comes before the subject (example: “It was discovered our platform can increase open rates by 75 percent”).
You always want your sales presentations to be founded on actionable language. By adhering to this principle, you can consistently reinforce the desired narrative for your prospect: there is a real problem, action is needed to resolve it, you have the ideal solution, and, therefore, your prospect needs to take action – with you as the guide.
When you rely too much on the passive voice, you’re essentially derailing this momentum and breaking the through-line of action that otherwise dominates the conversation. As with writing, you don’t have to eliminate all uses of the passive voice from your conversations, but you should keep them to a minimum and only use them when they have a specific purpose.
Habit #3: Answering Questions before Your Counterpart Has a Chance
Asking your prospects specific, value-added questions during sales interactions is beneficial because it allows you to discover important details about their situation and practices. On the other hand, immediately launching into answers for your own questions before giving your client a chance to respond is not helpful. For most of us, though, answering our own questions is a natural instinct – we ask questions with a general idea of the possible range of answers. We think we’re being helpful by letting the other party know we already have some context, but what actually happens is we end up dominating the conversation. To combat this, many experts recommend sticking to the 80/20 rule in conversations, where you listen for 80 percent of the time and speak for 20 percent of the time. When you ask sincere questions during sales calls, always allow your clients to answer directly from their own thoughts and provide you with the insights that can help you help them.
Habit #4: Interrogating Your Subject
While we’re on the subject of questioning your prospect, it’s important to remember there’s a very fine line between asking relevant questions at strategic points in the sales call and outright interrogating them.
When you need answers to a diverse collection of questions to do your job properly, you may feel motivated to run through them as quickly as possible so you can get the information you need. But making a connection during a call is what will help you build trust – and connections can only come when conversations are a balanced back-and-forth where both sides get to adequately express themselves.
Habit #5: Not Modulating Your Tone of Voice to Suit the Situation
Some people believe there’s a very specific style of singsong voice-work that excels in all sales situations. It’s a myth that has taken on a life of its own, and it has caused many inexperienced sales professionals to respond poorly when the subject matter or mood shifts quickly in a conversation. There is no one type of tone you should always adopt; what makes you sound empathetic and credible is the ability to shift your tone accordingly and immerse yourself in the interaction.